Between a Rock and…
What memories are attached to a pair of fleece salopettes! Rummaging through the climbing gear in my dad’s loft the other day, looking for somethings to lend to my wife for our little camping trip to the rocks this weekend, I came across all my old Alpine gear; ice-axes, crampons, helmets, ropes, sharp, twisted ice-screws and all the rest and it brought back many happy memories of those free roaming days across the World’s mountains. Especially my old fleece salopettes from North Cape, with the nylon seat panel ripped and hanging. I wore them from my first trip to Chamonix in 1990 and every year after that to the Alps, both summer and winter; to Scotland’s dripping glens; to the Polish Tatry and the Rockies’ lonely solos. Indeed they became my signature uniform, the fleece by which I was recognized. Even though they were not that warm at the end and that nylon seat damage often meant a wet bum I continued to wear them because I loved those salopettes and as I sat in the dark hot cave of the loft I could, for a moment, feel myself far higher, further and colder, with big views and climbing friends to share the memories with.
That was the biggest difference this time at Harrisons Rocks (one of the best little sandstone outcrops in the climbing area of Kent and Sussex -yes there is climbing in South East England). This time there was no-one I knew there. Okay so it had been three years since I last went climbing and my main climbing friends have all moved away (as have I) or are too busy with families and work these days (as am I) but it was a little strange to spend a day and a half wandering the crag and see absolutely no-one I knew particularly as I used to know almost everyone. Could have done with some friends around too to allow me to climb: with two toddlers running around a climbing area you cannot take your eyes off them for a minute to tie yourself to a rope and concentrate on the rock. If you do you’re bound to turn around and find them at the top of an eight metre cliff, ready to jump, shouting, “Daddy look at me!” I know this first hand.
Needless to say I couldn’t do much climbing myself, but I did get my wife and kids up some routes on a rope that made it all seem very real and exciting to them, and it was fun to see the sense of pride and achievement in their faces; a foretaste of what I hope my future will be; camping and climbing with the family.
Oh! and I did find that some more of my photos have been published in the new climbing guidebook to the area which means I’m owed a new guide book! My wife was very happy for me and I could show her the images with pride, but of the friends in the pictures, those whom I spent the days with with that made those shots; the people who could share with me the stories of those days; well I don’t know where they’ve gotten to.